Green

Guest Column

Sustained, Severe Cuts Equal Setbacks at NJ Department of Environmental Protection

f25a08c5a111bc781bca_7962.jpg
f25a08c5a111bc781bca_7962.jpg

Long-term budget and staff cuts have severely impacted the ability of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to carry out critical work to protect New Jersey’s environment and residents. This has serious implications for wildlife, public health and our economy. DEP is charged with managing and protecting the State’s environment and natural resources.

This requires an adequate budget, which is a well-planned investment for our state’s future through safeguarding public goods such as clean air and clean drinking water supplies. Rebuilding the DEP should be a pressing priority for the incoming administration.

DEP funding comes from several sources, including but not limited to: the General Fund, permitting, fines, fees, leases and the federal government. The Department’s budget has not grown sufficiently to meet its needs. Additionally, influxes of federal funds directed at addressing specific issues, for example Sandy Recovery, have reduced the overall revenue coming from the state’s General Fund and have thus left critical roles unfilled.

Sign Up for E-News

These cuts impact not only protection of natural resources but also result in increased waits for permits, reduced transparency and impacted enforcement actions. Park projects are back-logged, recreation opportunities reduced, and fisheries shut-down for lack of science. Consider the following examples:

State parks: The DEP is the state’s largest manager of preserved lands, forests, and parks. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of acres of land. State parks have been forced to reduce services such as educational and interpretive programs, park police, and vital natural resource management due to the continued decline of staff and budget support. Parks in the most densely populated state in the nation—and the visitor experiences offered there—deserve better.

Fisheries: The DEP is charged with managing, preserving, and protecting more than 500 species of wildlife and fish. It’s a large task and with insufficient resources, there are consequences. In 2012, the river herring fishery was shut down in part because the state lacked the personnel or funding to collect the data to prove whether the fishery was sustainable. Proper data would enable either a well-informed closure to promote population recovery, or prohibit the needless closing of a fishery.

Permitting: Delays in processing permits have resulted in delays in cleaning up contaminated sites. Remedial Action Permits allow the DEP to evaluate the proposed and ongoing cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated brownfield sites per the Site Remediation Reform Act. These permits help to evaluate and address issues such as remaining soil and/or water contamination, and thus play an important role in protecting public health. Lack of resources for review increased average wait time for these permits - approximately 200 days.

Enforcement: Reduced staff (approximately 40 fewer inspectors from 2005 levels) carrying out enforcement actions has resulted in fewer citations and issuance of penalties and fines by nearly 50 percent. Clearly, this reduces not only a source of revenue, but also reduces deterrents for environmental violations. As one example, data from the Division of Parks and Forestry reveals that penalties collected in 2014 were half of those collected in 2009 (with various years showing fluctuating amounts, but a generally consistent downward trend).

Collectively, cuts across all divisions of the DEP has taken a real toll. However, because actions such as enforcement and permitting are often seen as revenue-generating, a disproportionate number of cuts occur on the “green side” of DEP, which includes the Divisions of Fish and Wildlife and Parks and Forestry. Within the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP), staffing has been reduced roughly 25 percent in the past seven years and the General Fund contribution has declined over those years as well.

A popular argument remains that during fiscally challenging times we simply cannot afford to invest in our wildlife. But such an investment is far from frivolous considering fish and wildlife populations in turn bring in over $100 million in state tax revenue and billions of dollars into our economy through fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. Furthermore, proactively protecting wildlife and avoiding endangered species status actually saves taxpayer dollars in the end (while preserving a significant income generating natural resource in the State).

The dire funding and staffing trends at DEP must be reversed to properly protect NJ residents and to preserve our state’s valuable natural resources. Investment must be made in revitalizing our parks, and modernization encouraged to make DEP more transparent, and predictable for those interacting with the agency. If we continue to chronically under-invest in our natural capital, the State will experience not only a decline in the many benefits these areas provide our residents, such as clean air and water and safe places to play, but also experience a significant loss of revenue in the coming years and over the long term.

 

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

North Plainfield/Green Brook/Watchung

Somerset Regional Animal Shelter Offering July Adoption Promotion for Cats/Kittens

July 10, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, in Bridgewater, is urgently looking for homes for its cats and kittens.

According to a release from the shelter, the population surges throughout the summer during kitten breeding season, and so the shelter is launching a special promotion to help increase cat and kitten adoptions. During the month of July, all cats and kittens that over ...

Do You Recognize These Dogs?

PLAINFIELD, NJ - Two dogs were found in Plainfield near the fire station on Central Avenue on Saturday. 

The dogs are currently with a family in South Plainfield.  If you recognize the dogs, please email TAPinto Plainfield at jpopper@tapinto.net.

3-Day ‘AddamsFest’ set to Celebrate Charles Addams and His Creations This Fall

July 14, 2018

WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s creepy. It’s kooky. And it’s taking over Westfield from Oct 26 to 28. AddamsFest, a town-wide celebration honoring Westfield native Charles Addams and his most famous creations, The Addams Family, will be a destination event this fall with family-friendly activities, lectures, exhibits and film screenings, the town announced Thursday.

Watch the ...

Exchange Place and WTC PATH Stations to Close For Weekend Track Maintenance

JERSEY CITY, NJ - At least they waited until after the Fourth of July fireworks were over before starting.  

PATH stations at Exchange Place and the World Trade Center (WTC) will close at 11:59 p.m. this Friday, July 6, and remain closed until 5 a.m. Monday, July 9, to allow crews to transition to a new signal system being installed as part of the ...

Make the Call, Save a Life

July 10, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - There is much focus on preventative opioid abuse education. Rightfully so. However, the goal in addressing the opioid epidemic is saving lives. Even if that means just saving one life. While people are becoming increasingly aware of resources relating to rehabilitative services, support groups for friends and family of addicts, and training parents for signs of opioid and ...

Get Ready Warren: Fireworks, Food and Family Fun At Mt. Carmel Feast

July 13, 2018

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. – It’s time again for the annual Mt. Carmel Feast, a four-day festival full of food, music, games, rides, fireworks, and other family fun, located at Mt. Carmel Field in Berkeley Heights.

The fairgrounds will be open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, July 13 through Monday, July 16. Those four nights will include concerts, games, and ...

Somerset Regional Animal Shelter Offering July Adoption Promotion for Cats/Kittens

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, in Bridgewater, is urgently looking for homes for its cats and kittens.

According to a release from the shelter, the population surges throughout the summer during kitten breeding season, and so the shelter is launching a special promotion to help increase cat and kitten adoptions. During the month of July, all cats and kittens that over ...

A Guide to July 4: Fourth of July Fun Facts, a Video and Where to Find Independence Day Celebrations, Fireworks Displays

WARREN, NJ -  Independence Day 2018. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson penned words based on what he learned as a student of the enlightenment.  John Locke’s writings were ...

Obituaries

South Plainfield, NJ – Margaret (Pascazio) Butfiloski, 99, passed away peacefully on June 2, ...
Read more

Upcoming Events

Mon, July 30, 11:00 AM

Watchung Library, Watchung

Touch the Music

Arts & Entertainment

Thu, August 2, 6:00 PM

North Plainfield Memorial Library, North Plainfield

Microwaves & Mini Fridges

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

North Plainfield Board of Education Announces New Superintendent

July 2, 2018

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The North Plainfield Board of Education announced the appointment of Michelle Vella as Superintendent of Schools on Monday. Vella has served as Acting Superintendent since December 2017, in addition to the role of Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Curriculum and Instruction, which she has held since April 2015.

The board said in the ...

Warren Native and Watchung Hills Grad Joins 26 Nations in Rim of the Pacific, RIMPAC 2018 Maritime Warfare Exercise

July 12, 2018

PEARL HARBOR, HI -  A 2012 Watchung Hills Regional High School graduate and Warren, New Jersey, native is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC). 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Vesper is an aviation maintenance administrationman attached to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113, ...

Bedminster Woman Dies From Injuries After Being Struck by Car in Mall Parking Lot

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A Bedminster woman has died from her injuries after being struck by a car in the parking lot of the Bridgewater Commons Mall Monday.

Marion Kelley, 62, was struck by a vehicle while walking in lot four near the Macy's merchandise pick up area at around 3:20 p.m. Monday.

The 2017 Mazda was driven by Chinmayi Parikh, 33, of Piscataway.

The crash is still being ...